Telling

The cashier at Trader Joe's who asks, How was your week? Do you say, Well, I had my first MRI, and I'm going to find out if I have cancer in my second breast?

The good friend of a good friend you run into who asks how you are, and you say, OK, and then , Well, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. She says she'll do whatever she can, but there's really no reason because you haven't been in touch and though she means well she doesn't drive. But you didn't want to lie to her and say, I'm OK, I'm fine, and let it go at that. Because, you said, your mutual friend might have told her already, though you know that he is the ultimate in discreet.

The barrista you see every day who says, What's new? How are you doing?
The neighbor who says, How are you?
Everyone who says, How are you? The ones who know and still ask, How are you? How are you? You don't know. You think you're OK. You consider this the calm before the storm. The time when you are still intact, with your still-perky breasts and sticking-out nipples that will probably be gone gone gone down some swirl of medical waste.
The time when you have little slits and scabs on your breasts from the core biopsies, the time when you say, My breast has a black eye, knowing from your teaching that you are employing an indirect metaphor. The time when you think about telling. You email this person and that, you know that this person will tell this one, you think of ways to keep from springing it on people. What you write on the subject line of emails: Me. Bad News.
You tell your yoga teacher that you won't be able to lie on your stomach tonight because of your biopsy and she says, Oh, but everything's OK, right? and you say, Not really. There was a tall blond chiropractor who was in the yoga class after yours, she was known as the yoga goddess because she was so lithe, and then she had cancer and poof she died. It went to her brain. You suggested naming the yoga room after her but it became clear that rooms were named only after people who donated money.

But this is about not telling. About not telling D, D, your ex-best-friend, who you used to call every morning at 10 to share dreams. Actual dreams. As in, Last night I dreamed that... You shared the other dreams, too. They were the same: to be famous writers. Instead both of you were bitter, obscure writers fighting for the same things: publication, jobs, and over the years you brought out the worst in one another.

Do you tell D? But you're not dying. If you were dying, would you tell D? What would you tell her? That you are dying. Hello, is that you, I'm dying. What should we do? Will you have to be nice to me now? Which isn't fair. There was tension between the two of you, she was impatient, you were resentful, she was resentful, you wanted too much of the same things, you both had a scarcity mentality, thinking the world was not big enough to give both of you what you wanted.

Her mother died and you heard about it from a friend, and you sent her a note. And she wrote about losing her mother and you were jealous, really, that she had it published. Because every piece in every magazine must be written by you, and you alone, and every book written must be written by you alone, because there is not enough, never enough. And every time you think you're ready to talk to her you feel that squeeze, that never-enough-she-doesn't-deserve-anything squeeze inside you.

How could the Belief-O-Matic say you are much like a Buddhist when you have so much raw and deep resentment and not-enoughness in you? Where is your acceptance of life as suffering? where is your compassion and how will you cultivate it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it really rotten of me to say that if you do tell D, she'll probably write about it and that will piss you off even more? I mean, the idea is to be the heroine of your own story, not the material for someone else's.

Or maybe that's just me.